When you think of cold weather food, it tends to be rich, hearty, and comforting. Hot chocolate with marshmallows. Macaroni and cheese or gooey grilled cheese sandwiches. They’re all laden with fat, which makes it convenient that winter is when we wear clothes that cover up the weight we inevitably gain.
But is the heavy food the real reason that winter packs extra pounds on us?
1. Our bodies evolved to eat more when it’s cold out
It may seem funny to refer back to our caveman days, but some scientists say that our bodies are still sticking to their age-old programming.
Back when we were hunters and gatherers, cold weather meant that food was scarce. (2) It was hard to hunt, and crops wouldn’t grow. To help us survive, our bodies would build up stores of fat once the weather started to turn.
This is called the “thrifty gene hypothesis.” (3) Of course, we have no trouble finding food during the winter – all we have to do is go to the market. But at a cellular level, our bodies don’t know that and store fat anyway.
2. Our melatonin levels increase
You may think of melatonin as the hormone that helps you sleep, but it does more than that. Melatonin can play a role in our appetite, and the hormone increases in the winter when the days grow shorter. (4)
So when our Melatonin levels increase, our bodies respond by increasing our appetites.
3. When it’s cold out, we crave comfort food
There's a lot of research that shows that when we are feeling low, we want foods that are high in sugar and fat. There are also studies showing that our levels of depression increase during winter.
That’s why the food we want when the weather changes tend to be what give us the biggest emotional boost – and that means the sweet, fatty foods that lead to winter weight gain and leave us hungry soon after eating them. (5)
4. Less sunshine means less vitamin D
Studies have shown that vitamin D is lower in people who store more fat. When we don’t have enough vitamin D, we end up storing more fat and burning less.
Plus, during the winter we get less vitamin D because we are exposed to less sunlight. (6)
5. Cold weather means less movement
Admit it. When it’s cold out, you want to stay in bed in the morning. You don’t want to go out for a walk or a run, and the idea of heading to the gym can’t win against staying your pajamas and watching a movie while drinking hot chocolate.
We exercise less, sit around more. That’s a recipe for weight gain disaster, especially when you combine it with eating fatty, sugary treats.
So, what’s the fix?
The first step is to get out and move. Be mindful of what you’re eating. Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables and choose healthier, nourishing foods.
If you can’t get out into the sunlight, eat more Vitamin D-rich foods like oily fish. Incorporating some healing foods and healing movement in your daily winter routine will help prevent that winter weight gain!
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Yours in health and happiness,
P.S. Please share this with your friends who want to hibernate in winter, too! And then comment below – Do you usually pack on extra weight in Winter months?